Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation, has been named to a new White House Council for Community Solutions. In a press release announcing the appointment, the White House said the goal of the Council - made up of leaders in the nonprofit, philanthropic and private sectors - is to "provide strategic input and recommendations to help the federal government promote greater innovation and cross-sector collaboration to realize solutions to our nation's toughest challenges;" to recognize and enlist other community leaders, and "to help catalyze change in communities and have an impact in addressing our nation's important goals in education, youth development and employment."
That's a tall order - but do-able and Fleming is someone with actual experience in how to make that happen at the local levels.
I've known David Bohnett since before he became a billionaire businessman and philanthropist by founding GeoCities in 1994 after the devastating loss of his beloved partner, Judge Rand Schrader, an icon in LGBT Los Angeles. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal described GeoCities as a prototype of today's Facebook because it was about creating community. David's approach to social activism through philanthropy is about empowering individuals and contributing "capacity-building" foundation grants to start-up local organizations.
But the LA-based foundation - which Michael Fleming runs - also does follow-up, which I wrote about last February.
Rachel Maddow fans know how she gets all geeky-giggly when talking about "infrastructure" - how great the need is to fix and maintain the crumbling structures and the highways and byways that keep America moving.
Perhaps someone in the US Interior Department should talk to Michael Fleming, Executive Director of the David Bohnett Foundation to see how it's done. Late Wednesday, Fleming announced grants totally $500,000 to "refresh" the computers in 24 David Bohnett CyberCenters across the United States, including the CyberCenter at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. The "refresh" program was started in 2004 to keep the CyberCenters up-to-date with each CyberCenter receiving brand new state-of-the-art equipment on a consistent basis, about every three to four years.
Building self-perpetuation into a development plan - what a concept! But this is not just routine maintenance: this is social activism quietly at work....Knowing that access to information - access to knowledge - is vital to education, research, confronting lies, networking and personal development - as well as just having fun with online games - Bohnett worked with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center to open the first David Bohnett CyberCenter in 1998 at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza. The CyberCenter proved to be so successful, the foundation used it as a model to set up 63 David Bohnett CyberCenters nationwide.
A story last month in a local Long Beach community paper describes how the CyberCenter at the LGBT Center there "serves technology-deprived community." What if - and I'm just thinking out loud here - what if those CyberCenters become the new after-school playgrounds, with volunteer teacher/supervisors showing how interest in gaming can become a career in math and science?
Here's the link to the entire press release from the White House, with the names of the other members, including singer Jon Bon Jovi.